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FRSM Diploma Appeals / Taking Complaints Further

FRSM Appeals diploma complaints

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#1 empea

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 13:40

Dear all,

 

I recently made a complaint and appeal to the diploma department regarding conflicting information that was provided to me by members of staff in the diploma department, and incorrect information I was given which I believe contributed towards an unsuccessful result. The advice that was given to me eventually was the reason I was unsuccessful in the performance element of my Music Direction Diploma. 

 

Despite the strength of my appeal, and the large amount of evidence I have provided to back it up, it has been declined. Many of the experiences I detailed have not been acknowledged or adequately looked into, and I am unsure what to do next. 

 

I feel that in light of mistakes on ABRSM's part, I should at least be offered a free resit, or a full refund. I am unwilling to just let it go and pay another £700 for a partial re-sit (I passed part 2.2 and the written assignment with high marks) as I feel I have genuinely been mistreated by the examination board.

 

At present, I have written to and received a response from the Quality Assurance Team. I then re-appealed and received a further unsuccessful response from the Chief Examiner. 

 

Does anyone know how to take things further? Are ABRSM regulated by a higher body? Is there someone else I can contact who can look at this objectively? 

 

I would appreciate any advise whatsoever at this stage. 

 

Thanks for reading this.

 

EP

 

 


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#2 AnnC

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 13:56

Was the advice you were given verbal? Can you prove the advice you were give and by whom? If this is something a lay person could understand you could consider talking to a solicitor. Are you a member of a body such as ISM, who would take this on for you, or at least give you impartial advice?


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#3 empea

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 14:02

Hi Ann,

The advice I was given was verbal and also written via email. When I made my appeals, I provided copies of these and backed up 95% of my experiences with the relevant emails. I am a member of the Musicians Union and sit on one of their committees, so they might be worth contacting about this. Thank you for your advice. If you have any more thoughts, please don't hesitate to let me know. 

EP


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#4 RoseRodent

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 18:11

I think the crux of your issue is whether the advice "contributed to" the unsuccessful result or whether you can demonstrate it was a significant material cause of the unsuccessful result. If the appeal board feels that even if that advice had never happened you would not have been successful anyway, then they don't have to accept your appeal. How obvious is it from your evidence that it was the main factor which resulted in the unsuccessful result? 

 

You would benefit from some legal advice to sort out the different levels at which you may have been disadvantaged and what your legal recourse is. Definitely start with the MU because they are more likely to have the kind of experience and understanding that you need so that they'll understand where you are coming from, but a general solicitor could also be helpful to you as they will have a different angle. 


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#5 empea

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 22:53

Thank you Rose. There are quite a few issues which I believe contributed significantly towards my result but they have not been acknowledged. I have started making contact with the MU. I hope they might be able to advise me on this. What I would like to know is whether ABRSM is regulated in any way, and if there is a higher body I can take this up with. I appreciate your advice. 


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#6 RoseRodent

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Posted 09 November 2013 - 23:51

Wonderful, wrote a huge post and lost it all. Short version:

Check here, bear in mind it's from universities' viewpoint, but it's about regulation in higher education. (thought  ABRSM is not involved in the delivery of education, they may be covered by some of the same stuff)

Find out if they come under PSRB (professional and statutory regulatory bodies) - they might just. Again, these are barely regulated. 

The report from the HEC about the current state of regulation and recommended future regulation will tell you what exists now and what loopholes there are within that system that they are looking to fill. 

 

The idea is that professional bodies, associations, universities et al will all regulate themselves from within as they have such high moral standards. There must, however, be something somewhere that states who can award letters and what process they have to go through to ensure that they do so with high standards, otherwise I shall award everyone here a DipRodent and you can all wear a vibrant purple academic dress. ;) This may not help you one iota, as the process probably applies to the before (how the course is constructed, you submit the details to someone, they say that course counts, you go on your merry way) not the during and aftermath, but someone should have the power to stop people issuing duff postnominals, and it is with them that any regulation will lie. It is very, very likely that there is genuinely nothing. 

 

Ah, I also wrote that even if you have no further right of appeal, if you can demonstrate that they have missed/misunderstood (and that the misunderstanding is not your fault) the points in your original appeal, as opposed to having seen them and understood them but decided they were not valid grounds for appeal, then you should have the right to have the original appeal declared void and ask for another sitting of the appeals process. That's pretty tough to prove, but you could start by asking for complete minutes of the appeal hearing, rather than just the summary letter you have received with the outcome. I would hope the procedure should be minuted throughout. 

 

I'm probably all out on this one now, I've taken a univerity to a tribunal before but it was on very different issues, mostly to do with teaching delivery rather than examination conduct.

 

There's also an article online about someone who is taking Edinburgh Napier University to court over his degree classification because he feels their special circumstances committee didn't take his appeal on board properly; his case and his choice of legal team might be of some help to you. His case will probably now have been heard, as the article is from 2011; the wheels of justice are slow, but hopefully he has made some level of progress by now. 


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#7 jim palmer

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 11:51

Thank you Rose. There are quite a few issues which I believe contributed significantly towards my result but they have not been acknowledged. I have started making contact with the MU. I hope they might be able to advise me on this. What I would like to know is whether ABRSM is regulated in any way, and if there is a higher body I can take this up with. I appreciate your advice. 

Having posted this thread so many times, you seem to be "somewhat" obsessive. We all feel a bit miffed if we don't get the result we wanted, but the best thing is to forget it and not become a professional complainer.

If you re-sat the exam and passed, you would be on stronger ground for asking for a refund of fees for the second attempt.

:coffee:


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#8 Guest: Very Sane Tom_*

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 12:07

 

Thank you Rose. There are quite a few issues which I believe contributed significantly towards my result but they have not been acknowledged. I have started making contact with the MU. I hope they might be able to advise me on this. What I would like to know is whether ABRSM is regulated in any way, and if there is a higher body I can take this up with. I appreciate your advice. 

Having posted this thread so many times, you seem to be "somewhat" obsessive. We all feel a bit miffed if we don't get the result we wanted, but the best thing is to forget it and not become a professional complainer.

If you re-sat the exam and passed, you would be on stronger ground for asking for a refund of fees for the second attempt.

:coffee:

 

 

700 GBP may seem a lot, but it does not (by a very long way) justify the cost, time and stress of going to court.

 

Apart from other considerations, the most likely explanation for failing a diploma exam is simply not performing well enough.  And at Fellowship level you are expected to know what is required and not to make excuses and put the blame elsewhere if you are not good enough on the day (however well you might usually perform).

 

EDIT:  But I just checked out empea's professional web-site ... and she can certainly sing!


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#9 UnnaturalHarmonics

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 13:04

What was it you feel you were advised that turned out to be incorrect?
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#10 Hildegard

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 18:27



At present, I have written to and received a response from the Quality Assurance Team. I then re-appealed and received a further unsuccessful response from the Chief Examiner. 

 

Does anyone know how to take things further? Are ABRSM regulated by a higher body? Is there someone else I can contact who can look at this objectively? 

 

I would appreciate any advise whatsoever at this stage. 

 

Thanks for reading this.

 

EP

 

Page 35 of the syllabus indicates that an appeal can be made to the Quality Assurance Team and that the Chief Examiner will review the appeal. That much you seem to have done. It goes on to say " Should there be further dispute, the case will be referred directly to the Diploma Board, which may then appoint a panel to consider the appeal. The decision of this panel shall be final".

 

I'm not sure that you have gone through this final stage. There is no external body to which you can appeal after that - ABRSM exams are loosely regulated by Ofqual, but Ofqual does not offer an appeals service for any of the exam boards that it regulates.


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#11 empea

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 19:37

Thanks for all of your advice guys. Apologies for re-posting this 3 times. It was actually in error - I'm new to this forum and wasn't quite sure where to find my posts. I have tried to delete them but can't. I'm certainly not a professional complainer, or an under-performing person with a case of sour grapes?! 

 

My FRSM wasn't in vocal performance but in choral music direction. Without going into too much detail, the reason I failed was because of several things I was advised to do by the diploma department and syllabus director regarding exam procedure and programming, which were then deemed to be incorrect during the exam and which caused my failure. It's a mix of procedure, admin errors, protocol, misinformation and a few things that also occurred on the examination day which weren't connected to myself, but which effected my result. 

 

I scored well on other aspects of the exam, which I expected as I'm a professional arranger, orchestrator and musical director.

 

My original appeal was misunderstood and unfortunately my re-appeal was also misunderstood. I made a strong appeal, well backed up by written evidence. I'm not sure if I have got through to the final stage with a diploma panel, Hildegard. I have shown my appeal to a couple of suitably qualified people to see if they felt it was unclear or confusing, and they don't. Actually, they can't understand why it has been misunderstood.

 

Call me stubborn, or obsessed, but I'm not willing to let this go as I believe there have been clear wrongdoings and that in situations like this people should stand up for themselves. 


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#12 RoseRodent

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 19:54

My original appeal was misunderstood and unfortunately my re-appeal was also misunderstood. I made a strong appeal, well backed up by written evidence. I'm not sure if I have got through to the final stage with a diploma panel Hildegard. I have shown my appeal to a couple of suitably qualified people to see if they felt it was unclear or confusing, and they don't. Actually, they can't understand why it has been misunderstood.

 

People have a powerful drive to read what they expect to see. If your concern is similar to another, much more common, type of concern, it is likely they will see what they expect to see, it's just a human tendency. I can't tell you how many times I have sent a question to someone that is similar to an FAQ but different in a signifcant way, and received back a link to the FAQ which I already quoted and expalained why it wasn't relevant. If you are saying something similar to something they expect to see, but not quite, it's worth spelling it out: "For the purposes of clarity, I am definitely not saying that x happened, my case is that it was entirely y". 


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#13 Splog

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 21:13

I would advise you also to read the syllabus from cover to cover, to make sure that what you did "wrong" was not actually covered in there.

 

By the way, hope you are planning to stick around the forum once you have this sorted? You sound like a useful addition.... :D


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#14 empea

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Posted 10 November 2013 - 23:41

empea, I might be completely wrong on this (I'm not a lawyer), but (1) don't worry too much about that "The decision of this panel shall be final" statement. Private organisations can't write off their responsibilities like that. If they take money off you, and then fail to carry out the service they promised, then they have failed in their wider legal obligations. The musical opinion of the panel may be final, but its opinion on the contract between you and ABRSM is not. If you failed on administrative grounds because someone told you to do "A", you did "A", and then got told you had to have done "B", then there's a whole can of worms to be assessed. It's a bit like the dentist charging you £40 for a missed appointment; no matter how strictly they claim they'll enforce the rule, if it turns out the receptionist wrote the wrong date on your appointment slip and you turned up at the time you were told, then they simply cannot ask for the cash. End of. The only questions are how well you can prove it, how clear the responsibilities are, and whether it's worth your while to pursue it.

 

(2) And don't worry about pursuing it if you want. Any reputable organisation knows it needs to be challenged when it might have made a mistake. There are plenty of universities who've been sued by students who've failed, usually sued for failure to teach and supervise adequately, and failure to forewarn the student. Although they might not say so out loud, I'd imagine every one of them now has better standards of supervision as a result. Yours isn't quite the same situation, but there are parallels. RoseRodent is right about the tendency to see what you want to see, and answer the wrong question. Another thing that many organisations suffer from is fear of opening flood-gates and creating a precedent. It can lead to a knee-jerk rejection of any complaint that might involve offering free service or repaying cash.

 

Good luck, I hope you find an amicable solution, and get your complaint assessed by someone clear-thinking and perceptive.

 

I agree. What is most confusing about the entire process is that before the result was issued, it was selected for Quality Assurance; whereby the mark was checked against an audio recording of the assessment. [It could be argued than an audio recording does not adequately reflect a Music Direction diploma, where the focus is on the act of directing an ensemble and not on the performing abilities of the ensemble itself. Directing is a visual act that cannot be solely captured by audio and I was surprised on the day that a visual recording was also not made...]

 

ABRSM cite that my appeal has not been upheld because it was subjected to quality assurance. And despite my first appeal listing administrative wrongdoings, their response in layman's terms was: "please don't worry, the mark is definitely correct as we did quality assurance". When I re-appealed, explaining that I felt they had misunderstood my appeal, they replied saying the same.

 

BUT, if quality assurance took place before my appeal, how can it be the basis for not upholding my appeal? Surely that deems the appeals process itself invalid? Unfortunately, that seems to be the case here as my appeal has not been taken into account because ABRSM have not acknowledged or responded to 95% of it and have taken no responsibility or made apologies for wrongdoings. And I backed up everything I said with copies of direct emails from relevant members of the diploma department. It feels as though they haven't read my appeal and have replied with a stock answer.

 

I also feel that my appeal is not being looked into objectively, as it is members of the diploma board who provided me with this information about, admittedly, a little-taken qualification (it is so rare, they no longer print syllabi for music direction) which they might not be very familiar with.

 

Am I missing something here?


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#15 GMc

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Posted 11 November 2013 - 01:54

I think you have to make sure you totally master the art of summary.   How long was your original letter and in what size typeface?    In fact,  I would suggest someone else from a more scientific or legal background (not emotionally involved) needs to rewrite your concerns  for you.  Having failed to get it over once try a different approach....

 

State you feel they have misunderstood your concerns and have so far failed to respond to them adequately.  Simply that.  Nothing else in the opening.

 

I would  then put your complaints into a few short dot points with space between each.  Reference each of these numbered complaints to numbered enclosures attached at the back (the email evidence!).  After that I would write a very short paragraph explaining why Quality Assurance is irrelevant to this complaint (as they had no idea you were fed misinformation). 

 

Then at the end ask for each point to be considered by the diploma board as the final appeal process within ABRSM and responded to in writing individually.

 

Then you can really see what they understand, whether you accept or reject their opinion and whether to pursue this any further.


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